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How Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder Saved Me After My Breakup

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I had been in a relationship for almost seven months. From almost the beginning, we had issues communicating. There were red flags all over the place and my friends begged me to break it off several times, but I wanted to keep going.

I have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Since learning of my diagnosis less than a year ago, it has become evident to me that I have a fear of abandonment and a fear of rejection. I also have a fear of being alone, and the comfort of being in a relationship seemed like something I didn’t want to give up.

Eventually, I became disgusted by even little things he was doing and I was constantly on high alert from the state of stress that my body and mind were in at all times. The relationship was toxic, but I didn’t see it for all of those months.

I decided I needed to break off the relationship — something I had never done in my life, probably due to those deeply ingrained fears.

Of course, I consulted with my dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) therapist first, something I didn’t have in my (previously completely empty) toolkit before. My therapist told me to wait to break up with my boyfriend until I was in “wise mind,” a term often used in DBT to describe an ideal state of mind between the rational and emotional states of mind, and to give myself another week to make sure I was completely sure, since I had a habit of “splitting,” another term used to describe an all-or-nothing point of view that people with BPD often take on regarding other people and sometimes themselves.

I waited a few days, but I couldn’t wait any longer. The thing that saved me from crashing and burning into a fiery rage of emotion through this process was DBT. This revolutionary type of therapy has saved my life and allowed me to have a healthier view of relationships and of my own mental health.

DBT is a skills-based therapy. Just a few of the ways I used DBT to get myself through the breakup were through interpersonal skills while talking through the actual breakup with my ex-partner. A huge difference in this breakup is that it didn’t land me in the hospital. In previous relationships, I had no way of regulating my often intense and explosive emotions, but I felt like I had the tools to do that this time, even post-breakup.

There was a wave of emotion after the breakup that I was not prepared for. I experienced unexpected feelings of loneliness, rejection and even withdrawal-like symptoms from missing the comfort of companionship. DBT teaches you emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills to get through these tough emotions. I spent a lot of time changing my body temperature with ice on my face, using paced-breathing techniques, and I did a lot of distracting activities like podcasts that are neutral and unemotional, rather than music which tends to be a trigger for me.

I have also used techniques like mindfulness to allow myself to feel the emotions, understand that the intense feeling will pass and that I can stand it for now; that has been a huge factor in healing from the stress and loss that comes with a breakup, even if you’re the one initiating it.

While I was the one to initiate this breakup, the skills I have used during it could have been used if I was the one being broke up with as well. DBT has allowed me to feel in control of my thoughts and emotions for the first time ever, and I will carry the skills with me throughout all of the challenges in my life. 

Photo by Lauren York on Unsplash

Originally published: November 14, 2019
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